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Family Matters 01/11/18

Church, Let's Break the Silence on Sexual Assault

MeToo sexual assault campaign

Every 109 seconds, a person experiences sexual assault. And we are finally talking about this.

At the end of 2017, there were multiple allegations against both celebrities and politicians regarding sexual assault and harassment … Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein. It's like America woke up and started dealing with the reality of our out of control sexual problems and the way women, in particular, are treated by powerful men.

From a Christian worldview, sexual assault is a sin against a person. It is a violation of boundaries and another person's body. It is also a sin against a relationship because it violates the command to love one another as oneself and destroys trust.

The fallout can last for years, even for a lifetime. Victims may experience fear of relationships, anxiety, a hatred or distrust of men, an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt, loss of self-worth, difficulty with sex in marriage, a tendency for promiscuity, and inability to relate to God.

Victims often carry the secret of their experiences as a heavy burden, afraid of the effect on family and friends if others knew. Many miss the happiness of a carefree childhood – if they were assaulted as children. And as a result, a person can struggle with depression, flashbacks, PTSD, self-injury, STIs, substance abuse, dissociation, eating disorders, pregnancy, sleep disorders, and suicide.

The healing process depends on how severe and intrusive the harassment or assault was, receiving help, and allowing God to help you heal. You can become more and more able to resolve the painful memories of the past and live the abundant life God planned for you.

It is important to remember that sexual violence is not even about sex. It's about power, about one person making another feel small and insignificant, humiliated and less-than, and using the tools that we associate with intimacy to do it. Harassment is really a misguided sense of superiority (particularly over the person being harassed) and it's more likely to happen when disrespect of any kind is tolerated.

To begin the conversation, we need to acknowledge sexual assault as a real problem in our culture and welcome those who have been victims into our churches and direct them to help. We, the church, can be a place where both men and women can be themselves, be accepted as they are, and recognized as people made in the image of God. We can be an outpost of love and a viable alternative from secular thinking. By our prayer and care, we can also be a place of refuge, healing, and restoration, for the victims of sexual violence. It is possible for a victimized woman to have her humanity and value re-affirmed and learn (or relearn) that Christ loves her.

If you or someone you know has suffered sexual assault, know you (they) are not alone. There are people trained to help you and walk you through the healing process. Find a Christian counselor who specializes in sexual assault and trauma. Get help today. And if you are a college student, report any violation to your Title IX office. Their purpose is to investigate and provide resources.

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